Pets and mental health

We all know that pets doing hilarious things win the internet, but did you know that pets can also be winners for mental health, too? Read on and get the facts, including when having a pet isn't the best idea.

This can help if:

  • you’re interested in the mental health benefits of having a pet

  • you’re feeling lonely

  • you’re considering getting a pet.

Doug and Jude

The plus side of pets

A cat chasing its own tail will always be funny. Dogs running into things will never get old. However, the benefits that pets bring to our lives go way beyond just making us laugh. Having a pet can have a whole lot of positive effects on our mental health:

  • Your pet will always be there for you, and won’t talk back – which is great when human relationships get complicated and you’re feeling lonely or isolated.

  • Caring for a pet is a great way to give you a sense of purpose, as they rely on you for everything.

  • A pet is a great stress-buster – they bring us joy and help us appreciate the simple things in life.

  • Pets can encourage you to get out in the fresh air and get your body moving.

  • Pets can help you establish healthy routines – which can really help you maintain good mental health.

  • Your pet thinks you’re amazing, even if you’re not feeling that way yourself.

  • If you feel lonely or isolated, your pet can be a great conversation starter with new people.

Should I get a pet?

If you’re considering getting a pet, here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Am I ready for the day-to-day responsibilities of owning a pet? (Don’t forget about feeding and walking them, and being home enough to look after them.)

  • What will I do with my pet if I go on holiday?

  • Do I have enough spare cash to pay for food and potential vet bills?

  • Am I prepared to look after my pet for its whole lifespan? (This could be 10–15 years or more.)

  • Will the responsibility of having a pet be too much for me? (If you’re suffering from severe depression or anxiety, a pet could potentially pile on too much pressure when you’re already in a vulnerable state.)

Other options

While there are a lot of great reasons to have a pet, owning one isn’t for everyone. They’re a pretty big responsibility and are expensive to look after. The good news is you don’t need to own a pet to get the benefits they bring. You can always try the following:

  • Offer to walk or spend time with a pet that belongs to a friend or family member.

  • Volunteer at your local animal shelter.

  • Offer to pet sit for your friends or family when they go on holiday.

Before you decide, think about it carefully and talk it through with someone you trust to get their perspective.

What can I do now?

  • Check out our tips to improve your wellbeing.

  • Think long and hard before getting a pet.